In some ways, I just want to be done thinking about this, because it kind of makes me sad: It often feels like a J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar project, in all likelihood, just isn't going to happen. But then there's part of me that's beholden to the idea that this could come to fruition, so I don't mind grasping onto the small percentage of a chance that exists.
There are the endless conversations it would spawn from a pure rap fandom standpoint: What was the best song? Who had the better bars? How did it compare to other recent, celebrated joint projects like Jay Z and Kanye West's Watch The Throne and Drake and Future's What A Time To Be Alive?
And then there's the whole what it could mean thing.
In the last year alone, they've each proven, individually, the power of their positions. Kendrick's "Alright" became an anthem of hope chanted at Black Lives Matter protests. Cole's "Fire Squad" fearlessly unpacked white privilege and appropriation, while "Love Yourz" played seamlessly off of Dot's "i" as models of self love, confidence and appreciation, knowing that in an age of real-world disparity and social media comparisons, those are rarely easy practices.
We haven't heard any potential joint project yet, obviously, so there's no way of knowing what it sounds like or what they rap about. But given the way these dudes have approached their music, and given what's been going in their communities, I have to imagine there will be at least some -- if not many -- moments that speak to the challenges, largely rooted in inequality, that this country and those who live here are constantly facing. It could be music to live by.
And, of course, this release isn't merely some imagined fantasy. There are plenty of reasons -- born from actual things that have been said -- why we've been anticipating this. Cole and Kendrick have been teasing the possibility of a full-length collaborative effort for years.
“Me and Kendrick doing a whole ridiculous thing together that’s gonna tear up the world,” Cole promised way back in early 2011 on MTV's "RapFix Live."
Just days later, Dot doubled down. “What we got now is something incredible," he told MTV News. “Everything’s going to be 90 percent produced by him, me busting over them, and he should be featured on a few, too. I know he wanted to do most of the tracks. We got some records, man.”
We got a taste of the partnership on the Cole-produced "Hiii Power," in 2011, off of Dot's Section.80. Talk of a whole project between the two was fueled by nuggets here and there, like a Kendrick interview on "106 & Park" in May 2012 and Cole posting in-studio pictures of the two to his blog just days later.
In the years since, every now and then, rumors pop up, supposedly confirming or refuting the future or current existence of such an endeavor. “It’s coming," Cole told MTV News in 2013. "We already got too many songs. Even if you just get an EP, you gonna get something, but we got sh– that we holding in the stash."
But then it didn't come -- which didn't mean they didn't want it to, just that it hadn't yet. "I still would love to do it," Kendrick said earlier this year, inspiring neither glowing confidence nor a strong enough reason to lose all hope.
But with their Black Friday gifts, these two have only inspired further buzz. Not only are the uniform, timed, collaborative releases of the tracks enough to fan some speculative flames, but the final lines in Cole's "Alright" remix might leave a hint -- and plenty to be desired:
"When you and K. Dot sh-t dropping?/ Bitch never, they can’t handle two black n---as this clever/ But this February, bet sh-t get scary when I f--k around and drop..."
And then the last word is censored.
So what's he gonna f--k around and drop? I meannnnn....
The chatter only got stronger when Kendrick's sister reportedly uploaded and deleted an Instagram post with a caption hinting at exactly what the world wants.
"Collab drop #Feb16 so be on the look out for that as well," she wrote, according to Stereogum.
I hope you're not messing with us, Kayla.